When the Jewish Left Had Integrity
One of the sad problems on college campuses today is the way that the extreme left has hijacked civil and human rights movements, and turned them into bastions of hostility toward Israel.
These causes were traditionally championed by Jews — Jews who are now turned away if they are viewed as pro-Israel. Yet once upon a time, left-wing Jewish students stood up to the bullies and chose to walk away rather than join the Israel bashers.
I recently stumbled on a Newsweek story published on March 1, 1971, about the breakup of the coalition between radical Jewish and black students over Israel. The article read:
For Jewish radicals, the break with black militancy came in 1967 in Chicago when a Jewish contingent walked out of a New Left coalition conference rather than support a wide range of black demands, including one that called for a resolution condemning Israel as an imperialist aggressor in the Middle East.
Yet how many Jews or non-Jews are prepared to walk out today on groups that side with antisemites?
This example resonated with me after reading about how extremists from the Black Lives Matter movement joined hands with the antisemites in adopting a platform in 2016 that supported BDS, claimed US support for Israel makes it “complicit in the genocide committed against the Palestinian people” and compared Israel with the racist South African regime.
That platform was coauthored, according to The Times of Israel, by Rachel Gilmer, the former board member of a Zionist youth group. It was denounced by the mainstream Jewish community — although the extreme radicals at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which supports BDS, endorsed it.
After Ferguson, we saw that students supporting BLM had begun to incorporate the anti-Israel propaganda spewed by groups such as JVP and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) into their protests.
I initially thought that Israel might have a bit of a honeymoon on campus this year, because students would be focusing their ire on Donald Trump, but instead, the Israel-haters are seeking to glom onto these protests.
At Tufts University, for example, left-wing students disseminated a “Disorientation Guide” that attacked Hillel for supporting “a white supremacist state.” Hillel was also accused of exploiting “black voices for their own pro-Israel agenda” because, three years earlier, the parents of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager shot in Florida, were invited to speak about gun violence.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that similar guides were distributed at Columbia and New York University. The former criticized the Trump administration for “supporting the oppression of Palestinians both through its investments and by suppressing anti-Israel speech by students and faculty.” The latter declared that students participating in Birthright Israel are “complicit in the occupation, destruction, and colonization of Palestine.”
The SJP at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) held a “Smash Fascism” event that was publicized on Facebook — with a description that read that there is “no room for fascists, white supremacists, or Zionists at UIUC.”
The term “intersectionality” may be new, but what it represents is a familiar effort by Israel’s detractors to try to piggyback their marginalized campaign onto a more popular cause. If the left had any integrity, groups that are anti-Trump, anti-fascist, anti-police brutality etc., would throw SJP and their ilk out of their campaigns — and denounce them for their lies, bigotry and antisemitism.
Jews on the left must be equally unequivocal. Even if they sympathize with these causes, they must be prepared to walk away, as their predecessors did in 1967, from any group that allows its message to be hijacked to promote Jew-hatred and Israel denial.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 24 books including the 2017 edition of “Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict,” “The Arab Lobby,” and the novel “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”